Americans may be wondering what this week's partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration is all about, given that it doesn't have anything to do with the debt ceiling. We wondered too, but mystery solved: Democrats have furloughed nearly 4,000 FAA employees and 70,000 workers at airport construction projects to preserve a White House indulgence for Big Labor.
The FAA bill the House passed earlier this year would have undone the mediation board's about-face, but Democrats killed the provision in the Senate. In the conference committee negotiations, they've categorically rejected a return to the long-standing union status quo of only two years ago. Last week, the House passed another stopgap—the 21st—to prevent an FAA shutdown through September, with the labor imbroglio still unresolved.
Senate Democrats rejected it, out of nowhere. Ostensibly their reason was that it included a modest $16.6 million cut to something known as the Essential Air Service program, which underwrites flights to small airports. But the Senate had already passed $12.5 million of Mr. Mica's cuts, which would end payments to airports within a 90-minute drive of a hub. The balance comes by capping per-ticket subsidies at $1,000—which would have discontinued the deals at such global destinations as Ely, Nevada, where every passenger gets a taxpayer fillip of $3,720.